Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Defense

GAO-20-446PR Published: May 04, 2020. Publicly Released: May 11, 2020.
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Fast Facts

Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help improve the federal government. We alert department heads to the recommendations that would help them save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations.

This report outlines our 81 priority open recommendations for the Department of Defense (DOD), as of May 2020.

For example, these recommendations address ways to rebuild readiness, mitigate cyber threats, and control costs.

Since our previous letter in March 2019, DOD implemented 24 of our priority recommendations.

Department of Defense priority recommendations graphic

Department of Defense priority recommendations graphic

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What GAO Found

In March 2019, GAO identified 91 priority recommendations for the Department of Defense (DOD). Since then, DOD has implemented 17 of those recommendations, leading to improvements in operational contract support, readiness rebuilding efforts, and the Navy's force structure, among other areas. Additionally, GAO closed one priority recommendation related to DOD financial management as unimplemented because the recommendation is no longer relevant. GAO also removed nine priority recommendations pertaining to the Base Realignment and Closure process and defense headquarters from this year's letter because of DOD's actions in these areas. In March 2020, GAO identified 17 additional priority recommendations for DOD, bringing the total number to 81. These recommendations involve the following areas:

  • acquisitions and contract management
  • rebuilding readiness and force structure
  • driving enterprise-wide business reform
  • health care
  • cybersecurity
  • support infrastructure
  • financial management
  • preventing sexual harassment

DOD's continued attention to these issues could lead to further improvements in its operations.

Why GAO Did This Study

Priority open recommendations are GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015, GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or

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